I was talking to my sister the other day about just how shitty things have been lately. While my brief dip back into depression thankfully was just that- brief (WOOT), everything happening externally has been a garbage fire. The year started out awful, as I’ve already talked about, but since then the bad has kept coming too quickly for me to even process one horrible event before the world gets slammed with the next one. In addition to Alan Rickman and David Bowie, we’ve since lost Prince. Between Prince and Bowie we’ve now lost two actual, legitimate musical geniuses and icons. They were also two people who put up a middle finger to everything society told them that men “should” be, and refused to conform to traditional ideals of masculinity and sexuality. By doing so I can’t even imagine the number of lives they touched, and even saved. They inspired the fuck out of so many precious weirdos who might not otherwise have learned it was possible to live their lives joyfully and proudly, exactly as they were. Both were incredibly painful losses for the world.
Oh let’s see, what else do we have… OH YES, some cowardly, remorseless fucktruck named Brock Turner got a goddamn slap on the wrist for the violent rape of an unconscious girl thanks to our culture of rape apology and white supremacy, a beautiful young singer was murdered by a man who felt he was entitled to her person thanks to our culture of misogyny and male entitlement, 49 people’s lives were senselessly stolen from them thanks to our culture of homophobia and gun obsession, and people instantly decided to blame all Muslims for it thanks to our culture of Islamophobia and racism. The perfect storm of everything wrong with our country in the space of a couple of months. If all of that were not enough, a Member of Parliament named Jo Cox, who was by all accounts a wonderful human being and also a mother of two, was violently murdered in broad daylight on the steps of a public library in England. While not entirely clear, the motive appears to be due to her position that England should stay in the EU and that refugees should be accepted into their country. If so then her kindness and goodness literally got her killed, which is one of the most nauseating things I can imagine. All of this is on top of the numerous heartbreaking instances of unarmed people of color being literally murdered, ON CAMERA, by policeman who have gone on to face zero legal consequences.
The fact that out of all of the hundreds and hundreds of mass shooters we have had in this country every single one of them have been male isn’t even spoken of. Hardly a word is spoken about toxic masculinity. Meanwhile a hateful Cheeto has been inciting violence all over our country by appealing to the worst of humanity. He is managing to tap into the bitterness of every straight white man who is mad that he gets in trouble for saying the n-word now. These people fancy themselves as being oppressed because marginalized people are gaining some of the rights they themselves have always had, and because these days their bigotry occasionally has social consequences. What we call “treating everyone with human decency” they decry as “political correctness”, a nonsense term for a non-existent problem. Over the past couple of decades I imagine they have been seething mostly in silence, with only their relatives and friends to burden with their ignorant rhetoric. Then this Day-Glo piece of shit starts showing up on every television set in America telling them their cause is holy and their anger righteous, and it is all the push they need. They want to “take back” the country, meaning return to a time when white supremacy, misogyny and homophobia went unquestioned and their mediocre asses were pampered just for being born. Their rallies are violent, racist mobs, and they terrify me.
In the midst of the maelstrom, I keep asking myself if things are really worse than they have ever been or if that is only my perception. My sister suggested it may just seem that way because as we got older we’ve been paying more attention to things like this. It certainly feels as though we as a country are circling the drain. But while the Orlando tragedy was the worst mass shooting in America’s history and I cannot even begin to imagine there has ever been a bigger buffoon than Trump, I take a moment to think about our country’s bloody history of genocide and slavery, and remember that violence against women and rape have always been an epidemic. Maybe the petition to recall the judge who passed judgment in the Turner case will be successful, and other judges will start to think twice before giving every spoiled white teenage boy a pass to rape. Maybe this will be the time we rise up as one against the terrorist organization that is the NRA and get the assault weapons ban and the comprehensive gun control that we have needed ever since these weapons were invented. Maybe Hillary will squash Trump’s evil ass like the bug that he is (and all of the actual polls are showing that will indeed happen). Maybe the racial slurs being shouted at rallies by his supporters are the dying gasp of a deep-seated hatred that is slowly losing power in America. I would very much like to think that all of these things are true.
Unfortunately I have certain qualities that prevent me from believing these things, or even hoping for them. I have so much cynicism and pessimism in my nature. I used to believe that it was literally impossible to be aware of world events and be a positive, happy person at the same time. I even used to go so far as to think that the more intelligent and deep a person is, the more they are doomed to unhappiness. But then I started meeting people who absolutely manage it. When horrible things happen these people have entirely different responses. Misha Collins and other individuals I have met through Random Acts barely take a moment to cry before springing into action and helping any way they can. My beautiful friend and fellow blogger Bryn Donavan possesses both sharp intellect and an unfailingly sunny disposition no matter what the circumstances. This never ceases to amaze me, and over the past few years or so I have been forced to come to the conclusion that it is indeed possible… and that has caused me to want to change.
It’s much easier said than done unfortunately, as I have also learned from these friends that this takes actual work. You don’t just get to decide to be happy if you are not naturally so. You have to cultivate habits that may go against every malcontent-ed bone in your body. You may have to try multiple positive activities until you find even one thing that works for you. You have to care for your body as well as your mind. If you are by nature a cranky, judgmental asshole like me, you have to learn to curb these qualities over time with practice. It’s much easier to stay the same.
From the start of this year I have felt like the country has been drowning in a sea of hatred, loss, and violence. And maybe it has been drowning, but I’ve decided that I don’t want to drown with it. If I let every horrible thing that happens trigger my depression and rage I know eventually I will be consumed by it. I can still grieve and take action without those things. My suffering contributes nothing to the world. So I will keep trying. I fail a lot. I start a diary then discard it a few weeks later, I try meditation and either start to make grocery lists in my head or fall asleep. I try positive affirmations and feel like a corny doof. Worst of all I feel morally obligated to read about every terrible injustice and every act of violence that occurs in this world and then speak up for every victim, or else I am complicit in a system that ignores them. While that may be true to an extent, you are not going to be able to help anyone if you let yourself despair to the point where you are used up and burned out.
So since I am largely depression-free these days, this is the task that is now before me: Do the work it takes to live in this place where horrors occur daily and not let it destroy my mental and physical health. As usual, I need to get out of my own way. I’ll try to find a balance between staying aware and also getting a good night’s sleep occasionally. Take more time to enjoy my sisters, my nieces and nephews, and my friends. Focus equally on the things that make life beautiful. Go somewhere where I can look at some trees and a stream or some shit. My anger and grief aren’t going anywhere and terrible things will continue to happen, but hopefully it is possible to balance them out by also focusing on all of the beauty that exists in the world. I seem to remember there was a time I noticed that stuff too.
I think about this tweet a lot.